When I started this post, I was in the last few days of being 36 years old. My birthday has come and gone. Officially, I am in my first week of my 37th year. I have had a very blessed, worthwhile 37 years. I am pretty fond of it all. The rock bottoms, awful mistakes and the things I thought would ruin me. Yet, here I am. Intact. The things I feared and sweated over passed. Still, some days are tougher than others. But I have learned that life gives you joy and pain. Sometimes in equal measure. Both are gifts.
Right now, the 8 year old’s math homework is abandoned with one and half questions left. We ate dinner at 3PM. The laundry situation is reached stress-filled levels. The dishes keep piling up. My floor is once again sticky in spots. The past three days have been filled with interruptions, little people, and problems. A combinations of joys, hurts, worries, and progress has paraded through my heart this week taking time and mental space. This place, this space I made for my thoughts on the internet, had to wait.
This place is about me. It is one sided, personal place to process life. This chapter of raising small children makes many things in the day-to-day not about me. A hard, but worthwhile thing. We have a new house, third grade homework, extracurricular activities, the complications of poor communication/different parenting styles with our exes, and the pressure of a budget that rules our lifestyle. There is nothing more important, but it leaves little time for real soul searching or truth finding.
I have my moments… but the problems that keep landing in my lap are familiar, exhausting additions. Things that come around again are lessons still to be learned. There is a better way out there. Finding it however seems like an odyssey. I have traveled so far in this decade of thirty. Many things have shifted into place and become personal wisdom. Yet, many things sit still uncomfortably yoked and weighing me down. Despite this normal weight of life, I’m happy. Thirty-seven begins with a content soul. Dear God, my thirties have been so good. I should try harder to be deserving of this life. That too sometimes gets lost in the shuffle.
And for the sake of my own mental load, I’ll leave here what I hope to not carry into next year of being 38:
1. Being heartbroken over my brother and his decision to exclude members of our family from his children’s life. Being afraid that I will be cut out of my niece and nephews life if I am myself. His choice to ignore invitations and text messages. I hate the silence. Silence truly is deafening. I don’t understand, as a parent and adult, his inability to forgive. Or to at least let his kids be loved by all their people. Holding my tongue is hard. I would say unnatural. Not trying to fix things is hard. Being invited to things my other siblings aren’t is hard. Wondering if I still get invited solely because I share a home with our mother is hard. maybe i am cut out already and for the sake of avoiding conflict, I wasn’t notified. Finding the time for real conversation and answers is hard. I have the wisdom to know this discomfort is telling me that avoiding the conflict is not the way. Not having answers is worse than knowing truths. I haven’t found peace here yet.
2. The fights with my Ex. I have been divorced over five years. For Miss M’s sake, I can’t ever forget the facts of my relationship with Ex. It feels dangerous to let go and leave certain things in the past. He is a man who claimed to love us, but lied to us, stole from us and threatened us. He was not a good person to me. Nor is he consistently good to Miss M over the few years she’s been in the world. The life we built was filled with secrets and was based on a lot of lies. Like a mantra or worry beads, I recount the highlights:
Our home foreclosed. We had cars repossessed. He left us in the hospital to spend his paycheck in the casino. He emptied a piggy bank. I slept with my debit card in my bra. I spent hours talking him out of killing himself. He harassed me at two jobs. I fielded calls from hookers. I broke a crack pipe doing laundry and believed his story it was a piece to the fuse box. He opened credit cards in my name and racked up balances. He refused to return Miss M despite our visitation agreement two too many times. Over a year ago, he drank too much on an overnight and Miss M called in full panic for help when she couldn’t “find him.” And even now, over seven years separated, his anger flared up at a holiday stroll this weekend I went to at the same time he did. The line between forgiveness for my inner peace and holding on for her safety is a troublesome one to walk beside. I hope this year to find a way to remember, prepare Miss M for this life she’ll have, and also find power in not engaging. The past two years, I decided to let him have it occasionally. I said my piece. He knows the truth. Picking every fight is fruitless. Defending myself is fruitless. Trying to discern motivations is fruitless. I hope this year to make sure my efforts here yield something. My thirty seventh year I hope he gets used to my quiet footsteps walking away.
3. This is the big one. I want to sort through this life as a part-time parent who has no authority or say in my step-daughter’s life really. I am still figuring out this role as an unofficial step-mother. I actually have been reading the rule book for this role, but I fucking hate most of the advice that is given. Listen, a heart is not meant to be protected from loving a child fiercely. That is the whole point of being parent. Most of the advice is centered on protecting your marriage or, in my case, relationship. I get it, but my flag is planted firmly in Camp The-Kids-Are-More-Important. My allegiance to that is why I still am angry and still struggling with letting go of my assumptive judgement. Here are the things weighing me down:
Co-parenting with an Ex means your child will have two homes. Emotional bombs will walk in with them each time they cross either threshold. Yet, there is no way to avoid it or prepare for it. These kids will keep some secrets from each parent. They are savvy. Miss M won’t tell me if her Dad drinks on his visit. I don’t push. I’ll find out when it is a problem. She has skills to help her if it comes to be. I explain she does not have to get into a car he is driving unless it is the one with the breathalyzer. I explain he isn’t suppose to drink any grown up drinks on her visits. If these things happen… she can make a scene. Disobey. Advocate. Call home for help. She hasn’t had to, but I know I drilled it in her. I hope it is enough. I try to prepare her for the realities of her life, but also keep her little. I feel like Blue Eyes need this… and doesn’t have it.
With Blue Eyes, I see things, but can’t prepare her or build skills she might need for her life. It is like failing her again and again and again. She is treading this life with strategies developed on her own. Maybe with her mom. A little with her Dad. He tries… but nagging is not his thing. Sometimes you have to drill things into kids. He, like his daughter, is a little wary of making things messy. I think messy is always a beautiful beginning to things…
The disparities in personality are more noticeable with Blue Eyes between her two homes. Blue Eyes always makes things rose-colored here. She doesn’t ever speak harshly of another. She is forgiving and self-sacrificing. At home, she is extra mushy, emotional, and whiny. Here she takes cover in solitude and is soft spoken when upset. Usually, the most in trouble she gets is when conflicts break out between her and her siblings. When you talk about the disparities in an attempt to co-parent, the narrative is she’s holding it together here. Her true self is the one at home. Yet, sometimes she walks in here and you can feel her become lighter. What she is carrying inside, I don’t know. But there is something. It is palpable. So, here is the thing that keeps me up at night: I worry she’s holding it together EVERYWHERE. There seems to be a lot of emotional weight she bears at home. It is an inkling. A strand. Little pieces strung together that makes me feel this way. Blue Eyes glosses over and omits. She lies. She deals out information. “I forgot” is a common phrase. She didn’t forget. She didn’t forget to say she broke something. She chose not too. She didn’t forget to tell her mother she had tickets to her favorite band from us. She chose to go twice or to avoid something with her parents. I can’t admonish in the moment her making up what she had for dinner so her mother won’t be upset over her choice to have dairy. Her Christmas list has three things on it. She keeps herself a little secret and private. There is SOMETHING happening with Blue Eyes in terms of her relationship with problems her small world… and it is worrisome. I am worried.
And my worry can’t go anywhere. It is dependent on the two people who made her. My position as a parent to her 10-20% of the time leaves me helpless. I can’t call her teacher to check in. I can’t check prices on an inhaler at different pharmacies or have her pediatrician talk to the insurance for a better option. I can’t take her on a bazillion play dates or put in her soccer. I don’t even fell like I can call her up to check in weekly and chat. It makes me angry that I can see there is SOMETHING happening with her, that my mom instincts are screaming that she needs help, and my place on the sidelines. I only get put on the field every other weekend. She is so savvy on emotional baggage and she hates the spill over. Trying to protect both her parents from being upset means she takes on a lot and I am worried over time she going to drown in it. And so, I have to figure out how to be a step-mother in our reality. I hope to find a way to start again and to find a way to do this part of life more authentically.
4. Right now, I’m taking a back seat and letting Match handle things. We talk. He vents. I might too. We sort through the inundation of problems, conflicts, and emotional bombs to filter out what matters and what can be resolved. He, however, is the one doing the heavy lifting.I took myself out of the triangle until his Ex and Match can figure out how to move forward after this summer. Which is hard. He does things at a different pace and sometimes he just gives up. Too many every changing complications. Things fall through the crack. Small things eat at me. I hope this is what I let go of. He is wired differently than I am. That’s why we work. I hope to accept that he is going to skip certain conversation sensing conflict would occur or it would detract from other conversations happening. Giving the wrong time frame for tickets we purchased. August and then September is not October. Those tickets were a labor of love. Not explaining that his emails are his. I don’t need to co-write or ghost-write. I can’t bail him out here. For Blue Eyes, they have to struggle through this. I have to let him find his legs here and stay in the background– which is hard. Because I HAVE TO LIVE THIS TOO. I am trying to make peace with the fact that Match checks out sometimes to maintain his composure. That this is high conflict because our households have some vast disparities in philosophy, fair resolutions and recall of events. That I signed up to LIVE IT WITH HIM. I have to love him through his occasional bungling of facts and follow up. His emotional reserves with his Ex get depleted before I think they should… but it doesn’t change the fact he’s empty. I have to make peace with the fact that he isn’t always great at handling co-parenting with his Ex. Just like he has to make peace with the fact I don’t like scary movies, love cilantro, and will misplace things regularly.
Four aspects that keep cycling. The universe on repeat. So I hope to learn this year and see what comes next. Thirty seven seems a good starting place to prepare for my forties. These thirties have been good to me. Imperfect, but good. I’m sad to see this chapter inch closer to its close. These are the years I have found myself.
Long and broken and written in snippets of stolen time. Thank you for sticking with me. 🙂